State Defers to Local Systems on Graduation Requirements

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BATON ROUGE – The Louisiana Department of Education on Thursday announced local school systems would have broad leeway in deciding whether seniors are ready to graduate.

Schools have been closed since mid-March and will remain so for at least another month because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Local officials may replace traditional grades with a binary pass/fail option. However, schools “must consult with students and parents” to determine if pass/fail should be used and how this may impact grade point average requirements for the state’s TOPS scholarship program, the department says.

For students who have not demonstrated the knowledge necessary in a course to award credit, schools can provide options that can help students meet credit requirements through distance learning, online coursework, written work packets, project-based learning, portfolios, proficiency exams or work-based learning.

Gov. John Bel Edwards on March 13 ordered public schools closed in hopes of limiting the spread of the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19. He plans to extend his broader “stay at home” order, currently scheduled to expire April 13, through the end of the month.

Since schools generally finish their year in May, in-person classes may not be held at all again this year. Schools may host virtual graduation ceremonies or in-person ceremonies later in the summer, if and when it is considered safe to do so.

Instructional minute and compulsory attendance requirements have been waived because of the disruption, along with end-of-course exams for graduating seniors and promotional requirements for fourth and eighth grades. Public schools and school districts won’t receive performance scores from the state and teachers won’t have their usual evaluations.

The Louisiana Board of Regents, which oversees higher education, plans to ask legislators to allow students to use a June ACT score to qualify for TOPS.

“This special time for seniors across the state has been disrupted by the COVID-19 event, and we are sensitive to the uncertainty this has caused to the students and their families,” acting State Superintendent Beth Scioneaux said. “We want to support and reassure them that the path forward and the ability to follow their dreams remains.”

A more detailed explanation of the department’s guidance is available here.


By David Jacobs of the Center Square


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